A new study by researchers at St. Michael's Hospital suggests that fructose may not be as bad for us as previously thought and that it may even provide some benefit.
"Over the last decade, there have been connections made between fructose intake and rates of obesity," said Dr. John Sievenpiper, a senior author of the study. "However, this research suggests that the problem is likely one of overconsumption, not fructose."
The study reviewed 18 trials with 209 participants who had Type 1 and 2 diabetes and found fructose significantly improved their blood sugar control. The improvement was equivalent to what can be achieved with an oral antidiabetic drug.
Even more promising, Dr. Sievenpiper said, is that the researchers saw benefit even without adverse effects on body weight, blood pressure, uric acid (gout) or cholesterol.
Fructose, which is naturally found in fruit, vegetables and honey, is a simple sugar that together with glucose forms sucrose, the basis of table sugar. It is also found in high-fructose corn syrup, the most common sweetener in commercially prepared foods.
In all the trials they reviewed, participants were fed diets where fructose was incorporated or sprinkled on to test foods such as cereals or coffee. The diets with fructose had the same amount of calories as the ones without.
"Attention needs to go back where it belongs, which is on the concept of moderation," said Adrian Cozma, the lead author of the paper and a research assistant with Dr. Sievenpiper.
"We're seeing that there may be benefit if fructose wasn't being consumed in such large amounts," Cozma said. "All negative attention on fructose-related harm draws further away from the issue of eating too many calories."
The paper was released June 23 in the July issue of Diabetes Care.
Although the results are encouraging, the authors warn that it's important to be cautious because longer and larger studies are still needed.
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